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My Take: My hijab is my hoodie
Trayvon Martin, left, and Shaima Alawadi, were both killed recently.
April 5th, 2012
01:04 PM ET

My Take: My hijab is my hoodie


Editor’s note: Linda Sarsour is national advocacy director of the National Network for Arab American Communities and director of the Arab American Association of New York. Follow her on Twitter.

By Linda Sarsour, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I’ve been among the millions mourning the killing of Trayvon Martin, but I’m also mourning the fact that another recent killing has gotten little national attention.

Last week, a 32-year old Iraqi Muslim mother named Shaima Alawadi was found brutally beaten with a tire iron in her El Cajon, California, home and died three days later. A note reportedly left beside her said, “Go Back to your country, you terrorist.”

As an Arab-American Muslim mother of three, I instantly thought about myself and my family.

Alawadi's death put a mirror up to my face. I am 32, I wear a headscarf, like Alawadi did, and I live during one of the most hostile moments that the Muslim American community has ever experienced, especially in the decade since 9/11.

Blacks in America continue to face racism on a daily basis, from the workplace to interactions with law enforcement. And yet racism against African-Americans is publicly acknowledged as unacceptable.

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No one in power dares use the N-word publicly, fearing the wrath that will be bestowed upon them.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for Muslims in America. Bigotry against Muslims is quite acceptable. From media pundits to elected officials to presidential hopefuls, spewing misinformation and hatred about Muslims and Islam has been normalized.

In America, terrorism has become synonymous with Arabs and Muslims. We see that clearly stated in the note left next to Alawadi.

Law enforcement is investigating Alawadi’s case and says it will not rule out the possibility of a hate crime but also called the killing “an isolated incident.”

According to a report released by the FBI in 2011, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by nearly 50% in 2010. The latest statistics show a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010.

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Last year saw the coldblooded killing of two Sikh elders who apparently “looked” Muslim. The year before saw the stabbing of a Muslim cabdriver who told a white passenger he was Muslim.

Isolated incidents? I don’t think so.

Given mosque vandalism and opposition, proposed anti-Sharia laws and congressional hearings on American Islam, the rash of anti-Muslim hate crimes is not so surprising. As appears to be the case with Trayvon Martin, what’s dangerous is when ordinary citizens act on bigotry, born of misinformation and fear of the unknown.

While there has been some effort to connect Martin and Alawadi by focusing on their attire a hoodie for the African-American teen and a hijab for the young mother there has been a deafening silence and reluctance to take Alawadi’s case to the forefront of public debate by some in the Muslim community.

Major Muslim organizations and activists have been treading carefully, warning community members not to “jump to conclusions.”

I for one have been disheartened and feel disempowered by this response. As in Martin’s case, there is still an ongoing investigation into Alawadi’s death.

But with only initial evidence a dead black teenager, an iced tea, a pack of Skittles, a neighborhood watchman many of us have presumed the Martin killing is an unfortunate result of racism in America.

Some have even gone so far as to compare Martin's death to that of Emmett Till.

Why not the same for Alawadi?

Is an Arab Muslim woman drowning in her blood with a note deeming her a terrorist and telling her to go back to her “country” not explicit enough?

Instead of looking at Alawadi’s death in light of the anti-Muslim environment we live in, Muslims allow our internalized oppression to lead us to believe the stereotypes perpetuated against our community.

I have seen tweets and comments from Muslims suggesting the possibility Alawadi’s killing might be an act of domestic violence or, worse, an honor killing. 

In the United States, we need to come to terms with anti-Muslim bigotry, stand up to it and unequivocally deem it unacceptable. An injustice toward any one person or community is an injustice to us all.

I am Trayvon Martin. I am Shaima Alawadi, too.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Linda Sarsour.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Opinion

soundoff (1,301 Responses)
  1. Hashooshka

    Habib Hijab

    Today's specials at habibs mini mart:
    Buy one hijab get one free.
    free coffee stirrer stick with any purchase.
    free hotdog with kotex purchase.

    July 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  2. Ibrahim

    Linda Sarsour bemoans "I have seen tweets and comments from Muslims suggesting the possibility Alawadi’s killing might be an act of domestic violence or, worse, an honor killing. "

    It turns out that the tweeting and commenting Muslims were probably right, and not misguided like Ms Sarsour.

    Who was prejudiced and bigoted? Ms Sarsour, or the marjority of the non-prejudiced populace who saw a typical act of domestic violence, an added, anti-Kuffar cover up?

    November 17, 2012 at 3:28 am |
  3. a muslim

    @M.B.Khamenei.

    (1) Since you agreed with my past statement, then, let me post the point again:

    “I believe this – that without any third party interference or any other persons whispering in the ears of others, educated beings (like yourself) should truly be able to make up their own minds thus forming their own conclusion in determining what "is" and "is not" Islam and what "is" and "is not" credible. Understand?
    You call yourself an Intelligent Muslim. If that's the case, then let other Intelligent Muslims, like yourself, read what I had posted. Let them read it all – top to bottom – on their own freewill & allow them to determine what is and is not the truth & whether or whether not this source is credible.”

    (2) … you mistranslated 18:86.
    Sahil İnt. reads as:
    Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud,
    and he found near it a people. Allah said, "O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt
    among them [a way of] goodness."

    Yusuf Ali reads:
    Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: "O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness."

    (3) Here are a couple more verses I would suggest the world reading. Let them have an open mind (as you pointed out); and let them (the world) come to their own understandings:

    2:221. Those to whom We have sent the Book study it as it should be studied: They are the ones that believe therein: Those who reject faith therein,- the loss is their own.

    2:284. To Allah belongeth all that is in the heavens and on earth. Whether ye show what is in your minds or conceal it, Allah Calleth you to account for it. He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and punisheth whom He pleaseth, for Allah hath power over all things.

    3:2. Allah! There is no god but He,-the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal.

    3:3. It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).

    3:8. "Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower."

    3:104. Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.

    4:19. O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.

    14: 32. GOD is He Who has created the heavens and the earth and sends down water (rain) from the sky, and thereby brought forth fruits as provision for you; and He has made the ships to be of service to you, that they may sail through the sea by His Command; and He has made rivers (also) to be of service to you.

    14:33. And He has made the sun and the moon, both constantly pursuing their courses, to be of service to you; and He has made the night and the day, to be of service to you.

    16:12. He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise.

    16:49. And to Allah doth obeisance all that is in the heavens and on earth, whether moving (living) creatures or the angels: for none are arrogant (before their Lord).

    42:13. The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).

    54:9. Before them the People of Noah rejected (their messenger): they rejected Our servant, and said, "Here is one possessed!", and he was driven out.

    54:33. The people of Lut rejected (his) warning.

    54:36. And (Lut) did warn them of Our Punishment, but they disputed about the Warning.

    54.41. To the People of Pharaoh, too, aforetime, came Warners (from Allah).

    79:15. Has the story of Moses reached thee?

    87:19. The Books of Abraham and Moses.

    82:7. Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion;

    82:8. In whatever form He willed, He put you together.

    83:21. To which bear witness those Nearest (to Allah).

    83:22. Truly the Righteous will be in Bliss:

    83:23. On Thrones (of Dignity) will they command a sight (of all things):

    83:24. Thou wilt recognise in their faces the beaming brightness of Bliss.

    113:2. From the mischief of created things;

    113:3. From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads;

    113:4. From the mischief of those who practise secret arts;

    113:5. And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy.

    114:1. Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of Mankind,

    114:2. The King (or Ruler) of Mankind,

    114:3. The god (or judge) of Mankind,-

    114:4. From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper),-

    114:5. (The same) who whispers into the hearts of Mankind.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:18 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.